I was reminded, by a recent newspaper article, that Michelle Obama was born into the Chicago of the 1960’s where public schools were segregated. These schools actively resisted integration until 1975. 1975! That was yesterday!
I’ve got a collection of old adverts encouraging young mothers to smoke or give Coca Cola to infants. I, myself, practiced clinical psychiatry for many years accompanied by a smoking pipe when seeing patients. Today, these practices are unthinkable. The pace of social change is overwhelming.
However, in parallel, we have been told, and we repeat this like parrots, that ‘people are resistant to change’. The reality and pace of social change and the statement ‘people are resistant to change’ don’t match. Certainly, as biological entities, we are changing all the time with little resistance.
What people mean is that people are defensive about change that they can’t understand, or is imposed on them, or does not make sense to them, or leaves them vulnerable and with little or no control. I have never seen people resistant to becoming wealthy, or independent, or happier, or with more options and possibilities before them.
‘People are resistant to change’ is the most senseless management statement in the lexicon. The problem is that, by repeating it like parrots, we have come to believe it. So, if the baseline is ‘resistance’, then, all that needs to be done is to convert this into a ‘war on resistance’. So called ‘change management’ gets contaminated with how to overcome resistance to change, even before anybody has measured how resistant we actually may be. To begin a journey by climbing a huge mountain is not a good start.
Perpetuating the myth of inevitable resistance is nonsense. Start with the assumption that change is possible. In doubt, look around, open the windows. Or go to the opticians.